Responding to Ukrainian unrest, faculty expands Russian Studies program


By Garen Knight Freed, Staff Writer


Intense civil unrest verging on war in Ukraine during the last three months brought the country to the forefront of international media, and prompted an expansion of Stetson’s Russian Studies program, according to Dr. Mayhill Fowler, professor of History. In addition, several faculty members put together events aimed at informing students about the situation in Ukraine.

“A year ago, no one would have ever thought the [recent events]in Ukraine would have ever happened,” Fowler said. “Starting next year, the Russian Studies department will be re-labeled to incorporate [all aspects of Eastern Europe].”

In the last 3 months, a plethora of important events took place in Ukraine and surrounding regions, ultimately leading to more than 70 deaths and annexation by Russia earlier this week.

According to Dr. Eugene Huskey, professor of Political Science, it can be difficult for students to keep up with accurate information about all of the events in Ukraine, especially if they lack prior knowledge about the region. For example, some students referred to the region as, “The Ukraine,” which Fowler stressed is incorrect.

“The events in Ukraine make it difficult for experts to follow, let alone students,” Huskey said. He and Fowler collaborated with Dr. Michael Denner, associate professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, to create two flash forums for students to learn about the region and the recent happenings.

According to the professors, the forums brought in approximately 100 attendees total, and featured outside experts who contributed via Skype. They’ve also put together a variety of informal discussions and meetings around campus about the topic.

Several Ukrainian students attend Stetson. Recent alumna Olena Vlasyuk said she has stayed involved with the forums and lectures pertaining to the events in Ukraine, and even attended the most recent flash forum.

“I think [the Eastern European Studies professors]did a great job at informing the attendees about what was going on in Ukraine,” Vlasyuk said.

Additionally, Fowler and Huskey seized the opportunity to discuss the events in Ukraine in their classes. For example, Fowler highlighted Ukrainian culture and ethnicity in her Junior Seminar, “Ours or Theirs: Remember Diversity in Eastern Europe.” Huskey discussed Ukrainian and Russian politics in his Comparative Politics classes.

The professors said they want to encourage students to stay educated on the events in Ukraine and seize the opportunity to analyze the historical, cultural, and political contexts of the events as they happen in real-time.

The professors said they don’t have any plans for future events for students, but it will depend on how the situation unfolds in the coming weeks.

“Hopefully, there won’t have to be any more flash forums in the future,” Fowler said, adding that the professors will be ready to inform the Stetson community whenever the need arises.